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Fall enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions increased 23 percent between 1995 and 2005. Between 2005 and 2015, enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions increased 14 percent, from 17.5 million to 20.0 million. The overall increase between 2005 and 2015 reflects an increase of 20 percent between 2005 and 2010, followed by a decrease of 5 percent between 2010 and 2015.
Similarly, the number of full-time students rose 21 percent from 2005 to 2010, then fell 6 percent from 2010 to 2015, for an overall increase of 14 percent between 2005 and 2015. The number of part-time students rose 20 percent from 2005 to 2011, then fell 4 percent from 2011 to 2015, for an overall increase of 15 percent between 2005 and 2015.
Between 2005 and 2015, the number of female students rose 12 percent, while the number of male students rose 17 percent. Although male enrollment increased by a larger percentage than female enrollment between 2005 and 2015, the majority (56 percent) of students in 2015 were female. Both male and female enrollment increases between 2005 and 2015 reflect increases during the first part of this period followed by smaller decreases during the most recent part of the period (a decrease of 4 percent for males from 2010 to 2015 and a decrease of 6 percent for females).
In addition to enrollment in degree-granting institutions, about 412,000 students attended non-degree-granting, Title IV eligible, postsecondary institutions in fall 2015. These institutions are postsecondary institutions that do not award associate's or higher degrees; they include, for example, institutions that offer only career and technical programs of less than 2 years' duration.
Like enrollment in degree-granting institutions for the United States as a whole, the number of students enrolled in degree-granting institutions located within individual states generally has been lower in recent years. Overall, fall enrollment in degree-granting institutions declined 5 percent between 2010 and 2015. Similarly, fall 2015 enrollment was lower than fall 2010 enrollment in the majority of states (42).
Between fall 2005 and fall 2015, the percentage increase in the number of students enrolled in degree-granting institutions was higher for students under age 25 than for older students; and this pattern is expected to continue in the coming years. The enrollment of students under age 25 increased by 15 percent from 2005 to 2015, while the enrollment of those age 25 and over increased by 13 percent. From 2015 to 2026, NCES projects the increase for students under age 25 to be 17 percent, compared with 8 percent for students age 25 and over.
Enrollment trends have differed at the undergraduate and postbaccalaureate levels. Undergraduate enrollment increased 47 percent between fall 1970 and fall 1983, when it reached 10.8 million. Undergraduate enrollment dipped to 10.6 million in 1984 and 1985, but then increased each year from 1985 to 1992, rising 18 percent before stabilizing between 1992 and 1998. Between 2005 and 2015, undergraduate enrollment rose 14 percent overall, from 15.0 million to 17.0 million. This overall increase reflects a 21 percent increase in undergraduate enrollment between 2005 and 2010 (when undergraduate enrollment reached 18.1 million), followed by a 6 percent decrease between 2010 and 2015. Postbaccalaureate enrollment increased 34 percent between 1970 and 1984, with most of this increase occurring in the early and mid-1970s. Postbaccalaureate enrollment increased from 1985 to 2015, rising a total of 78 percent. During the last decade of this period, between 2005 and 2015, postbaccalaureate enrollment rose 17 percent, from 2.5 million to 2.9 million.
Since fall 1988, the number of female students in postbaccalaureate programs has exceeded the number of male students. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of full-time male postbaccalaureate students increased by 24 percent, compared with a 25 percent increase in the number of full-time female postbaccalaureate students. Among part-time postbaccalaureate students, the number of males enrolled in 2015 was 6 percent higher than in 2005, while the number of females was 8 percent higher.
The percentage of American college students who are Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Black has been increasing. From fall 1976 to fall 2015, the percentage of Hispanic students rose from 4 percent to 17 percent of all U.S. residents enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, and the percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander students rose from 2 percent to 7 percent. The percentage of Black students increased from 10 percent in 1976 to 14 percent in 2015, but the 2015 percentage reflects a decrease since 2011, when Black students made up 15 percent of all enrolled U.S. residents. The percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native students was higher in 2015 (0.8 percent) than in 1976 (0.7 percent). During the same period, the percentage of White students fell from 84 percent to 58 percent. Race/ethnicity is not reported for nonresident aliens, who made up 5 percent of total enrollment in 2015.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2018). Digest of Education Statistics, 2016 (NCES 2017-094), Chapter 3.
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